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A Centennial Year for U.S. Mining Safety and Health Research


NIOSH Update:

Contact: Contact: Christina Spring, (202) 245-0633
March 9, 2010

In celebration of a century of federal mining safety and health research, a new publication released by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) takes a look at the past 100 years of progress. The publication, One Hundred Years of Federal Mining Safety and Health Research, provides a snapshot of the progress to provide miners with a safe work environment, and a detailed organizational history of the federal program.

Covering the events behind the beginnings of mine safety and health research in the U.S., the author looks at both the historical events that influenced the research, as well as the significant improvements made as a result of new methods and technologies that came out of the research. The major accomplishments highlighted include:

  • Preventing explosions and fires
  • Controlling respirable dust that causes debilitating and potentially fatal lung diseases
  • Controlling noise exposures that can lead to hearing loss
  • Securing and holding up mine roofs to prevent deadly roof collapses
  • Providing safety training for miners and mine operators

“Mining continues to play a vital role in our nation’s economy, and keeping miners safe on the job pays dividends in keeping families secure, communities stable, and companies competitive,” said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. “This is a great opportunity to reflect back on a century of work and look to the future on how we will continue to meet the challenges to ensure the safety and health of miners.”

Beyond the historical recounting of the research, the document also looks at how the research has had implications for improvements beyond the mining field, including preventing explosions in hospital operating rooms from anesthetic gases and the development of new methods for measuring explosives detonation rates and temperatures in detonation waves.

After a series of fatal mine disasters in the early 1900’s, Congress passed an act in 1910 creating the U.S. Bureau of Mines, whose goal was “to increase health, safety, economy, and efficiency” in mining. This was the beginning of mine safety and health research in the U.S. Today the research is housed within NIOSH’s Office of Mine Safety and Health Research. Since the establishment of a mining research agency in the U.S., fatality rates for coal miners has dropped significantly, from 2,821 fatalities in 1910 to 30 fatalities in 2008. The publication covers the broad history of achievements and challenges faced over the past 100 years and looks towards the future.

The complete publication is available on the NIOSH website at This publication serves as just one part of NIOSH’s centennial celebration for mining research in the U.S. For more information about our celebration and to learn more about how mining has changed, visit